CMMS/EAM Software Review

Our rigorous review of popular computerized maintenance management system packages exposes strengths, weaknesses and industry trends

Go to the 2006 CMMS Software Review home page

See the 2005 Review Results

This year’s updated and expanded review of CMMS software packages proves once again that a lot can happen in the software industry in one year. There is nothing like heated competition for driving innovation among the CMMS vendors.

For the past 18 years I have conducted detailed reviews of a wide cross-section of the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) packages available in North America. It is a fascinating industry that has seen many vendors come and go, merge and be acquired, as well as continuously improve their product offerings in response to changing user demands. Breakthroughs in hardware, software and telecommunications technology have also played a significant role in driving change.

In the course of devoting half a day to exploring each of the packages and questioning the vendors’ expert representatives, I collected more than just the hard data. I also found myself reflecting on what’s changed in the industry. My observations, analysis and conjectures are summarized below. Link to the review.

Expect application-specific expertise
Lean times have led to consolidation and a sharper focus on strengths and markets. CMMS/EAM vendors are more strategic about where they want to direct their R&D and marketing efforts, and more tactical about getting their share (or more) of the applications they perceive to be among their specialties.
 
Further industry consolidation: Merger and acquisition activity continues. In part, this is because more software vendors are realizing the immense power of the CMMS for extracting real savings off of the shop floor. ERP vendors, plant automation companies, industry-specific software businesses, high-tech venture capitalists and third-party service providers are examples of companies that have either acquired or developed their own CMMS in efforts to augment their service offerings. As the functionality of the CMMS improves, its utility as a management tool increases, making it more desirable to the marketplace.

Changing marketing tactics: Despite a somewhat sluggish economy and a rather difficult year for many CMMS vendors, most entered 2005 stronger and better equipped to meet customer needs. Marketing efforts have become much more focused and responsive, reflecting the growing sophistication of their customers’ buying behavior. For example, there is a far greater emphasis on the Internet for finding and evaluating software options.

Catering to industry-specific needs: As software functionality and user needs become more sophisticated, CMMS vendors have developed niche features, modules or whole product lines that cater to certain industries. For some industries, such as nuclear and pharmaceutical, the driver is the need to comply with more stringent regulatory requirements. For others, such as transportation, municipalities or contract maintenance providers, it is the unique requirements of these businesses.

Competitive but complex pricing: Recent economic conditions have ensured there remains a healthy level of competition at every price point, from under $1,000 to several million dollars. However, users still find it difficult to price-shop. This is party due to the difficulties and controversy in tracking users that interface with the CMMS via the Web. For example, this includes production managers who send and track work requests.
 
There are so many components of price, each of which is referred to differently. Terms such as site assessment, customization, configuration, installation, training, consulting, pilot, implementation, license and maintenance are all defined and bundled differently by each vendor. Pricing can be a moving target, which adds to problems in comparing vendor offerings in terms of value for money at the time of purchase. Many vendors offer incremental pricing where users can start with the basics, such as work order control and preventive maintenance, then add on functionality for a price at some point in the future.

Greater coverage across overall maintenance functions: There are seven types of maintenance functions addressed by modern CMMS packages:

  • Plant maintenance. 
  • Fleet or mobile equipment.
  • Facilities or buildings.
  • Infrastructure, including roads, pipelines, sewers, water mains, etc.
  • IT asset management, including desktop computers, laptops, servers, network devices and other hardware, software and telecommunications assets.
  • Service management, including support of contract maintenance, third-party billing, help desk, dispatch, etc.
  • Capital management, including long-term asset repair/replacement planning, capital project planning, transitioning from engineering design to maintenance of capital assets, and so on.

It used to be that CMMS packages would cover the functional requirements of only one or two of these areas. Over the years, both customer demands and the desire to broaden the customer base have led to some CMMS vendors to expand into four or more functional areas. Some customers, such as airports, municipalities and large mining companies, can make use of functionality from all seven areas. Therefore, CMMS vendors continue to add more features relevant to each of these areas.

Moving to a Web-based architecture: Today, one of the key factors driving change to CMMS software is the Web. CMMS vendors are rewriting their applications to meet the demand of users for enabling access to their CMMS applications and data from any type of computer or handheld device, running any operating system, using only a browser – any browser -- from any location in the world. Users expect access equivalent to running the application as a standalone on their desktops or as a client on a server, with the same performance, functionality, and look and feel. This is a very cost-effective, enterprise-wide solution for users.

Define Requirements First
Any quantitative comparison invites users to compare packages line-by-line and column-by-column, looking for the one that does the most. But bear in mind that each of the CMMS systems in our table was created to fit a specific set of needs. The package with the most bells and whistles does not necessarily include the most critical features for you and your plant.

When it comes to price, the packages all have different value propositions. Some cost less than $1,500 but have far more functionality than many users need. Others may cost $1 million by the time they’re installed, yet still be missing a few key capabilities.

Before you use the data at http://www.plantservices.com/articles/2005/cmms_review2.html to narrow your selection, you’ll want to conduct a needs analysis to weight the importance of each review criterion. Only then can you rate packages on how well they meet those needs, multiply the weightings by the ratings, factor in pricing, and come up with a short list of potential winners.

Partnerships improve implementations
The need to integrate more capabilities and diverse technologies into the CMMS, and to make CMMS packages work smoothly with other functions such as automation and enterprise systems, is leading to increasing numbers of vendor partnerships.

Greater openness means more partnerships: CMMS vendors have for many years worked closely with vendors of many related hardware and software products. However, the more open, Web-based architecture described above has provided an even greater impetus for vendors to work together in all kinds of partnerships. Some of the more popular software applications that are integrated with CMMS are ERP, human-machine interface (HMI), programmable controllers, manufacturing execution systems (MES), shop-floor data collection, mobile technology, condition monitoring, PdM, E-procurement, graphic parts book, project management, GIS, workflow, industry-specific software, and a host of analysis and reporting tools.

Achieving productivity gains through e-commerce: E-commerce, including e-quotations, e-catalog, e-marketplace, and e-procurement, holds promise for users to reduce costs tremendously by automating much of the supply-chain functions. Advanced features include:

  • Standardized electronic catalogs that restrict users to company-approved options.
  • Portals into MRO part-supplier Web sites with an electronic shopping cart that populates an internal purchase requisition.
  • Electronic quotations and bidding systems.
  • Automation of the purchase request to purchase order process.
  • Automatic payment upon receipt of parts, thereby eliminating the need for a supplier invoice.
  • Payment electronically using electronic funds transfer (EFT).
  • Used equipment sold through an electronic marketplace.

Revolutionizing CMMS with mobile technology: Perhaps one of the most significant emerging trends for maintenance shops since the CMMS was first available on a microcomputer is the advent of mobile technology. The personal digital assistant (PDA), sophisticated cell phones, “smart” scanners and advanced shop-floor data collection devices have put the power of the CMMS into the hands of the maintainers. Data is uploaded and downloaded from the server either on a batch basis or online using cell phone technology or a wireless network connection.

Just as a cell phone began as a simple phone in your car or a glorified walkie-talkie and then morphed into a sophisticated tool that can take pictures, surf the net, send text messages to land lines, and perform a host of other functions as a personal device, so too will mobile technology transform the way we perform maintenance. Mobile technology is more often than not used simply as a remote terminal onto the server. However, some CMMS vendors and their customers who have viewed mobile technology as a strategic advantage have been rewarded handsomely - achieving anywhere from 10% to more than 30% improvement in productivity. This is usually more than adequate to cost-justify the expense of additional hardware, software and training. Even more impressive is the attitude change that occurs in maintainers who view mobile technology as one of the most critical tools in their toolboxes.

Adopting new technologies for shop-floor data collection: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an emerging technology designed to help companies better manage their inventories, including MRO spare parts. Although more costly than bar code labels, RFID tags can hold much more information and are easily read with less human intervention. For example, a warehouse shelf containing spare parts could automatically detect what it contains and send the information back to the CMMS. Despite the media hype about RFID, it remains to be seen just how quickly the inexpensive and highly accurate bar code technology will be replaced.

Packages embrace reality
Convergence of CMMS software capabilities with the requirements of best practices (and making it work in the real world) is driving vendors to add and refine capabilities and features to their packages.

Improving process/data flow with more sophisticated workflow: We often forget that whether handling a work request, ordering parts or performing a PM routine, CMMS software is but a tool in support of your maintenance processes. The software should therefore facilitate your “world-class” workflow at each step in the process. A workflow engine captures the process flow on a computer using customizable business rules, allowing users to see graphically what the flow looks like, and determine the current status of items moving through the flow. Workflow also enables automation of some parts of the process, such as approvals and notification. The latter refers to the routing of critical data to a person’s e-mail address, pager, telephone or handheld device.

Better management of assets using condition monitoring: One of the most exciting developments of the past few years is the increased use of condition-based maintenance to make improvements to asset performance, reliability and the quality of output. Operations, maintenance and engineering departments are working together to minimize variability in the product, process, environment and equipment operation by using shop-floor data-collection devices, condition-monitoring tools and predictive technologies. The more sophisticated CMMS packages allow trend analysis for a variety of meters and combinations of triggers, as well as alarming users, scheduling a PM routine, or taking corrective action automatically when a condition is reached.

Rising popularity of sophisticated analysis tools: For many years, there has been a steady improvement of first, reporting, and now, analysis tools. After all, management and workers cannot be expected to meet performance targets without timely and accurate feedback of results. Business intelligence brings to your desktop an effective means of presenting and probing results, fully configurable by each user.

A user’s personalized home page can display, on a real-time basis, such things as key performance indicators (KPIs); balanced scorecard results; trends in conditions being monitored, alerts or alarms; a summary of costs; and status statistics such as the number of missed PMs. The data can be displayed as dashboards, dials, stoplights, graphs, charts, meters, tables and so on, and are refreshed at user-definable intervals. By double-clicking on any object, users can continuously drill down to greater detail.

Adding specialized modules for greater functionality: It is incredible to see just how functionally rich today’s CMMS packages are. This reflects just how well some CMMS vendors have listened to their customers’ needs, and how much they have spent on R&D to keep their applications current. A few of the more recent modules added by the more advanced CMMS vendors are lockout/tagout capability, tools management, keys management, HR management, lot control, engineering change control, calibration, document management, procurement engineering and a number of modules to assist in regulatory compliance.

Building a better user interface: Ease of use continues to be an important criterion for evaluating CMMS packages. Users are tired of plowing through screen after screen to get at the information they need. The expectation is that the package is designed around users’ needs, not that users must conform to the design of the package. The better packages are easy to learn, simple to navigate and flexible enough to accommodate the specific requirements of each user for data entry, analysis or reporting. One of the more popular navigation aids offered by some CMMS vendors is the MS Explorer-style lookup capability for the hierarchy of equipment, parts, suppliers, employees, cost center and so on. Especially useful is the ability to toggle between where your cursor is pointing on the indented hierarchy with one or more dynamic windows showing graphics, history, a brief summary and/or drill-down.

A related area is enhanced online help. Advanced features include user-customizable wizards for assisting users in walking through procedures, training videos accessible from within the CMMS, graphical help showing standard workflows, and hyperlinks to the live application from within the online help.

It's All on the Web
Review results were derived by inviting all interested CMMS vendors to complete a comprehensive survey defining in detail the degrees of functionality of their packages in more than 300 categories (the relevant portion of the survey is provided in the legend of the table). Those who completed the survey were required to demonstrate performance in each category under the watchful eyes of Contributing Editor David Berger, P.Eng. In the many cases where vendors’ self-evaluations did not align with Berger’s criteria, he corrected the survey responses accordingly.

The half-day, in-person reviews ensured consistent interpretation of each survey question and that the same criteria were applied to every vendor. Responses that could not be audited (number of sites, pricing, annual sales, etc.) were examined by Berger for reasonability in the context of his considerable experience.

Along with his monthly column in Plant Services, Contributing Editor David Berger, P. Eng., is a certified management consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario; a principal of Western Management Consultants, Toronto; and an adjunct professor at York University in Toronto, where he has taught operations management for the MBA program for 15 years.

From 1994 to 1998, he was vice president, projects and process engineering, operations and technology at banking conglomerate CIBC, responsible for the fundamental design and redesign of business processes and information technology. Before that, he held several positions in industry with Maple Leaf Foods (formerly Canada Packers Inc.) and Ferranti-Packard Electronics Ltd.

Berger has conducted numerous maintenance audits; helped senior management develop maintenance strategies involving maintenance, operations and engineering; assisted companies in implementing process improvement initiatives with significant results; and led a variety of IT projects, from developing a detailed specification to package selection and implementation, for CMMS/EAM, PdM, RCM, and supply-chain software. He was recently awarded the Sergio Guy Memorial Award in recognition of his significant contribution to the maintenance and asset-management profession.

You can use the data here and in our CMMS/EAM software review with confidence to find packages that will fulfill your requirements and compare them feature-to-feature with the assurance that they were judged and are represented fairly and consistently.

--Paul Studebaker, CMRP, editor in chief

Where from here?
In general, the major CMMS vendors have done an excellent job of building core functionality for work order management, preventive and condition-based maintenance, scheduling, spare parts inventory control, and equipment history. In terms of data flow, most of these packages allow users to collect and extract data in a timely and fairly organized fashion. The key points of differentiation among the packages today appear to be the quantity and quality of advanced features that build on core functions, both generic and industry-specific, as well as the user interface in terms of ease of learning and use. 

In the future, I believe the CMMS vendors and their packages will increasingly differentiate based on their ability to deliver bottom-line results in partnership with their customers, as opposed to how many ticks they receive on a customer’s request for proposal (RFP) specification sheet. Of course, that will happen if and only if you, the customer, demand it. In my opinion, the RFP should compare how well features such as various analysis tools will support new processes, which in turn will achieve a return on investment, and how fast a given vendor relationship will take you there. I look forward to reporting progress on this front as we update the Web-based CMMS/EAM software review during the next few years. 

These trends will be discussed in more detail in future articles. For now, take a look at the current state of CMMS functionality.
 
 

 

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